Wednesday Quote: Neighbors

Kierkegaard 20090502-DSCF1495
Statue of Kierkegaard, photo by Arne List
[GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“. . . love your neighbour!  As already shown, you can easily find him; him you can never lose.  The beloved can treat you in such a way that he is lost to you, and you can lose a friend, but whatever a neighbour does to you, you can never lose him . . . it is not your neighbour who holds you fastit is your love which holds your neighbour fast.”

This is from Soren Kierkegaard’s analysis of “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” in his Works of Love (transl. Howard and Edna Hong).  I’d not fully realized the simple profoundness of this commandment before reading this book a couple of years ago.  Though it’s a tough one to peruse, there’s many such great quotes in Works of Love.


  1. cleopatra Avatar

    I don't really understand what Kierkegaard means by this quote. Why are neighbours accepted over friends and family? Why can we lose a loved one and friend but not a neighbour? Because we love the neighbour? But then why can't we love a friend or loved in the same way? Especially if your love \”holds\” the neighbour, it would hold the friend and loved one as well. Is it because you aren't as close to a neighbour that you can love him in this way? That would be rather depressing. Wow, with all my questions, it's apparent that I desperately need to read Kierkegaard. Don't worry, Marian, I don't expect you to answer any of them, I'm just talking out loud! 😉


  2. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    All great questions, Cleo, and I love that you're making me look at it in a different way. 🙂 The way I have read this before – and this could be wrong, but – it seems like he's talking about 'neighbor' in a conceptual way, and as all-encompassing… If you lose a friend, you lose a special emotional connection, so yes, you have lost a 'friend.' But that person is still a neighbor in a broad sense, and your connection to them is defined by the fact that you love them. So there will always be someone to care about, even if one loses all friends and family…'neighbors' will still be left.


  3. Cleo Ross Avatar
    Cleo Ross

    Thanks for the explanation. I think what is getting in my way of understanding is what I read about love in The Art of Loving book that I was talking about in one of the posts on my blog. He redefines love as a faculty instead of making it about a \”person\”. So then, when Kierkegaard is sounding like he's making it like a person, I resist that philosophy. However, you could look at it that by using the word \”neighbour\” he is discussing love in a more global sense, which I can appreciate. What bothers me is his reference to losing a friend or loved one because of they way he treats you. I can understand losing them but I don't think we should stop loving them. Does God no longer love us when we treat Him badly? And I'm still not clear how we are unable to lose a neighbour and therefore we can always love him. But I should just read Kierkegaard's work instead of throwing random thoughts your way, lol! Thanks for listening ….. 🙂


  4. Ruth Avatar

    That last part sounds too much like Bonhoeffer's quote on marriage: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.” He wrote that in May 1943; I wonder if Bonhoeffer read Kierkegaard? Bonhoeffer was German, Kierkegaard Danish…??? Hmm…


  5. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Ohhh, interesting…it's certainly possible! If so, it sounds like a response, almost as if to argue it's our ties that fuel our love and not vice-versa. I wonder if Bonhoeffer would apply that to all kinds of relationships or just to marriage?


  6. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    He does say elsewhere in the book not to \”give up hope\” on anyone, so the way I would interpret \”loss\” here is a loss of closeness, not loss of love. 🙂 I think he was basing it on his personal experience of a breakup with his fiancee…he never stopped loving her, but there was a loss just the same.


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